Shotokan Karate-Do International Federation NZ
“Kara” is the Japanese for empty while “te” means hand and “Do” translates as the way, or path. Karate-Do is “The Way of the Empty Hand”.
It is impossible to truly understand the meaning of any Japanese martial art without some understanding of Japanese history and culture. Here, we can only give you a brief outline. As you become interested in the martial arts, you will want and need to learn more, to investigate and study more...

Literally translated as: “Empty Hand Way – Kara Te Do” and commonly spoken and written as one word ‘Karate’ or ‘Karate-Do’ meaning The Way of the Empty (or open) hand. However, translation can vary somewhat, depending on who is translating! The characters of Japanese writing originated in China but have evolved as a separate language over centuries. Therefore some will translate Kara Te as “Chinese hand”. For the purpose of simplicity, we will use the common understanding of Empty or Open Hand.

Karate-Do is a traditional martial art that developed over centuries, in the way of most cultures, through the need to defend oneself! In feudal Japan, commoners were not permitted by law to own or use weapons of war. Only the Warrior class, the Samurai, and the nobility were permitted weaponry. The result of this was that often the common people would be in a position of having to defend themselves without weapons against superior skills and power.

Therefore, over time, and with the influence of travellers to and from other lands, the ability to defend oneself using only ones own body as a weapon, or common farming tools easily found as a necessity in any village, were taught and learned, in secret. It was not until the early 1900’s, when the Samurai were outlawed and ordered to cut off their top-knots, that practitioners of the secret martial arts of Okinawa and Japan were able to practice openly and without fear of punishment, or even death.

It is important to understand also that in Japan, fighting was not just a warriors skill, but a martial art was a “Way” - a Path and Philosophy for life that with diligent practice and striving for perfection, could lead one to spiritual enlightenment. This kind of practice applies not only to martial arts in Japan, but is an integral part of Japanese culture and tradition, as evidenced by their artisans in every craft, from pottery to music to painting to making tea in the famous Tea Ceremony, to every way of preparing food, every service available.

Gichin Funakoshi

Gichin Funakoshi Sensei At the request of the Emperor of Japan, the art of Karate-Do was first introduced to mainland Japan from the island of Okinawa in 1917. After he visited the island and watched a demonstration, the Emperor saw that there were many benefits for a person’s health, mentally, physically and spiritually. So the secondary school teacher and Karate-Do practitioner, Gichin Funakoshi Sensei, was invited to the mainland to teach and spread the practice of Karate-Do throughout Japan.

Since then the art has been refined and developed into the dynamic martial art it is today.

The name of Shotokan derives from the pen name of Funakoshi Gichin Sensei: “Shoto” signifying the sound of the wind in the pine trees, or “Pine Waves” and “Kan” meaning place of training. The name Shotokan was adopted in Japan by students’ of Gichin Funakoshi Sensei and has since become synonymous with the traditional style of Funakoshi O-Sensei’s Karate – the first and most well known Japanese karate style to be seen and taught internationally, although others followed.

The fundamental philosophies of Shotokan Karate-Do are expressed simply in the ethics of the training hall, the “Dojo Kun”. These precepts should be studied by karate-ka (students) for the attainment of spiritual enlightenment as the ultimate goal one seeks through the practice of Karate-Do.

Through practice of traditional karate-Do, SKIF NZ endeavours to instil in students an understanding and respect for ones self, for others and harmony within our world.